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Ken Venturi

May 20, 2013 1 comment
Ken Venturi making his final putt to win the 1964 US Open

Ken Venturi making his final putt to win the 1964 US Open

Ken Venturi died Friday. He was one of my favorite people in sports. I wasn’t yet following golf much when he had his greatest moment, winning the 1964 US Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda under oppressive weather conditions. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame a week and a half before his death, but was too ill to attend.

From the NYT obituary, by Richard Goldstein:

He first gained notice in 1956 as an amateur when he led the Masters by four shots entering the final round, only to shoot an 80, losing to Jack Burke Jr. by a stroke. He was the runner-up at the Masters again in 1960, a shot behind Arnold Palmer, who birdied the final two holes.

But Venturi’s signature moment came at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., on a Saturday in June 1964. Temperatures were approaching 100 degrees, and the humidity seemed unconquerable as the players struggled to play 36 holes, the last time the Open staged its final two rounds on a single day.

Venturi had not won since the 1960 Milwaukee Open, had considering quitting and had been required to participate in two qualifying events before being allowed into the Open. He almost collapsed from the heat on the 17th green of his morning round but carded a remarkable 66.

Going into the final 18 holes, Venturi was two shots behind the leader, Tommy Jacobs. After a 45-minute break, Venturi virtually staggered through the final round, trailed by Dr. John Everett, who was monitoring the players and who had warned him against continuing out of fear he would die from heat prostration.

Everett gave Venturi ice cubes, iced tea and salt pills as he played on, instinct triumphing over the pressure and the exhaustion. Venturi overtook Jacobs and sank a 10-foot putt on the final hole to close out a 70, besting Jacobs by four shots.

“I dropped my putter and I raised my arms up to the sky,” Venturi told The A.P. in 1997. “I said, ‘My God, I’ve won the Open.’ The applause was deafening. It was like thunder coming out there.”

Venturi was so weak that he could not reach into the hole to get his ball, so Raymond Floyd, his playing partner, did it for him.

“I felt this hand on me, and it was Raymond Floyd handing me the ball,” Venturi remembered. “I looked at him, and he had tears streaming down his face.”

As Floyd later told The A.P.: “He was running on fumes. If you had asked him his name, he could not have told you. It is one of the most heroic things I have ever seen.”

Venturi was helped off the green by the United States Golf Association official Joe Dye and was so woozy that he could not read his scorecard. Dye assured him that it was correct and that he could sign it.

A few years later, I bought a book consisting of selected articles from Sports Illustrated, including Alfred Wright’s coverage of the tournament. The article, by far my favorite in the book, was an eye-opener, giving me my first appreciation of the human drama inherent in competitive golf. Now I follow golf more closely than any other sport, and build my Father’s Day weekend around the US Open. SI has made all past articles available in the SI Vault, so you can read Wright’s article here.

Venturi would go on to greater fame as the decades-long analyst for CBS’s golf coverage, paired for years with Pat Summerall, who himself died just last month. Before his career in sports broadcasting, Summerall was another of my heroes, as the place-kicker for my favorite childhood football team, the New York Giants. (Goldstein again wrote the NYT obituary.) Whenever I watch CBS golf coverage, I miss them both.

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Categories: Golf, Obituary, Television

Kenwood House 4

May 19, 2013 Leave a comment
The Cherry Gatherers, François Boucher, 1768

The Cherry Gatherers, François Boucher, 1768

The Seattle Art Museum‘s exhibition Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London, about which I have written here and here and here, ended today. Last Tuesday evening, we made one last visit.

Let me quote one more time the description of the exhibition offered by SAM curator Chiyo Ishikawa at the exhibition website:

Within the neoclassical Kenwood House at Hampstead Heath on the outskirts of London, resides a magnificent painting collection known as the Iveagh Bequest. Kenwood is home to an exceptional collection of Old Master paintings, including major works by Gainsborough, Hals, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Romney, Turner, Van Dyck, and many others. The Iveagh Bequest was donated to Great Britain by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847–1927) and heir to the world’s most successful brewery. Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: Treasures of Kenwood House, London, a selection of approximately 50 masterpieces from the collection, will tour American museums for the first time. Among other treasures, the exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see Rembrandt’s late Portrait of the Artist (ca. 1665), which has never left Europe before.

The Earl of Iveagh’s personal collection was shaped by the tastes of the Belle Époque—Europe’s equivalent to America’s Gilded Age. His purchases reveal a preference for the portraiture, landscape, and seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings that could typically be found in English aristocratic collections. Since the earl was a newcomer to London emigrating from his native Ireland, he may have selected works that would help him fit in with his peers and elevate his social standing.

Kenwood House is a property of English Heritage, described at its website as “the Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment.” On our first visit, we toured the exhibition with Susan Jenkins, senior curator for English Heritage. Our second tour was led by Chiyo Ishikawa. This time, we had the pleasure of touring the exhibition after hours with SAM’s new museum director, Kim Rorschach.

We hadn’t realized on receiving the tour invitation that eighteenth-century British paintings were the subject of Kim’s doctoral work at Yale some years ago. As she explained when we reached the heart of the exhibition, the portraits of Reynolds and Gainsborough, she spent a year in London during her graduate studies, living near Hampstead Heath and visiting Kenwood House almost weekly. Thus it was a special treat for her, on assuming the directorship last fall, to come just in time for the arrival of some of her old friends.

Kim focused on several of the same paintings that Susan and Chiyo had stopped in front of on the earlier tours, such as Gainsborough’s portrait below (circa 1760) of Mary Countess Howe.

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Like Chiyo, Kim is more partial to Gainsborough than Reynolds, and she especially admires this portrait. She took us through it in some detail.

In the next room, while Kim talked about two Gainsborough landscapes, my eye wandered to the two side-by-side paintings by François Boucher, which I somehow had missed on previous visits. As Kim walked the group to the second Gainsborough, I moved into the space that opened up in front of The Cherry Gatherers and realized that it was really quite wonderful. And different from much else in the exhibition.

What is it about Boucher, and his pupil Jean-Honoré Fragonard, that I resisted years ago? I would go to the Frick Collection and race through the Boucher and Fragonard rooms in my haste to see the Vermeers, Holbein, Manet. Well, can you blame me? But after enough visits, I found myself slowing down, then stopping, and now I love the two rooms. (Click on the room links for virtual tours.)

The Four Seasons: Autumn, 1755, François Boucher, The Frick Collection

The Four Seasons: Autumn, 1755, François Boucher, The Frick Collection

On coming to the end of the Kenwood House tour, Kim took us through the complementary exhibition European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle. The webpage explains that the Kenwood House exhibition provided

the perfect moment to reveal some of the extraordinary collecting of European painting that has been quietly taking place in Seattle over the last 20 years. European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle features 34 paintings, all from local collections, which will share the special exhibition galleries with the 48 paintings from Kenwood House.

I wouldn’t have expected such good paintings to have made there way here to Seattle. Some will ultimately end up at SAM>

Next Kim led us across the street to a small function on the second floor of the Four Seasons Hotel, from which we had a perfect view of SAM’s newest installation, Doug Aitken’s MIRROR. There was an unveiling two months ago, which we were unable to attend. The unveiling webpage explains that MIRROR is

a permanent art installation for the façade of SAM by artist Doug Aitken, that will become a new landmark in downtown Seattle. MIRROR is an urban earthwork that changes in real time in response to the movements and life around it.

At the unveiling, guests will experience an unprecedented performance with synchronized choreography of MIRROR in relation to compositions by minimalist composers Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Mr. Riley will be in Seattle for the performance of his monumental work In C, featuring musicians from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Stuart Dempster, faculty at the University of Washington School of Music, who performed with Riley for the original debut of In C in 1964.

But here, see for yourself:

Gail and I looked out the window at MIRROR from time to time, chatting with other guests and eating hors d’oeuvres in between. I talked about the Boucher paintings with Kim, who agreed that they stand out from the others that Guinness collected. And another guest told us about concerns the owners of condos in the building to the north of the hotel have about MIRROR. Much as we enjoyed the view out the windows, we don’t live there. Those who do are less excited. Arrangements will have to be made.

That was that. Farewell to Kenwood House.

The next major SAM exhibition, opening late next month, is Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion. Quite a change of pace. I suspect I won’t be writing four posts about it.

Categories: Art, Museums

The Flamethrowers

May 16, 2013 Leave a comment

flamethrowers

It took a month and a half, with a few other books read along the way, but I finally finished Amanda Foreman’s long history A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War last Friday night. Along the way, I had decided I would next read a novel. I had several other books lined up, including another long history of a nineteenth-century subject. But I was ready for fiction.

Which novel? There’s the new one by Claire Messud that came out at the end of April. For a while I thought that might be it. There’s Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, which also came out while I was reading Foreman, and was well reviewed. But there was some other April release whose reviews intrigued me. What was it?

The NYT to the rescue ten days ago with a feature article on Rachel Kushner. Ah, yes. The Flamethrowers. The article wasn’t all that enlightening, but it did link to James Wood’s New Yorker review of a month ago, described by the NYT’s Maria Russo as rapturous.

How rapturous? Let’s see what Wood has to say:

Rachel Kushner’s second novel, “The Flamethrowers”, is scintillatingly alive, and also alive to artifice. It ripples with stories, anecdotes, set-piece monologues, crafty egotistical tall tales, and hapless adventures: Kushner is never not telling a story. It is nominally a historical novel (it’s set in the mid-seventies), and, I suppose, also a realist one (it works within the traditional grammar of verisimilitude). But it manifests itself as a pure explosion of now: it catches us in its mobile, flashing present, which is the living reality it conjures on the page at the moment we are reading. Consider Kushner’s vivid descriptions, near the start of the book, of racing and motorcycling. The novel’s narrator, an artist in her early twenties nicknamed Reno (it’s where she’s from), is obsessed with speed, machines, and land-speed records. (Art seems to be a subsidiary concern.) When we first see her, she is riding her Moto Valera motorbike from Nevada to Utah, to take part in the land-speed trials on the Bonneville Salt Flats. In a cool, hospitable, ingenuous tone, she tells us about herself. Her mother was a switchboard operator, “and if her past included something akin to noir, it was only the gritty part, the part about being female, poor, and alone, which in a film was enough of a circumstance to bring in the intrigue, but in her life it attracted only my father.” As she approaches the salt flats, the prose begins to glimmer:

On the short drive from town out to the salt flats, the high desert gleamed under the morning sun. White, sand, rose, and mauve—those were the colors here, sand edging to green in places, with sporadic bursts of powdery yellow, weedy sunflowers blooming three-on-the-tree. . . . Pure white stretching so far into the distance that its horizon revealed a faint curve of the Earth. I heard the sonic rip of a military jet, like a giant trowel being dragged through wet concrete, but saw only blue above, a raw and saturated blue that seemed cut from an inner wedge of sky.

It is easy enough for a good writer (and this is very good prose—that “inner wedge of sky” perfectly capturing the living blueness of atmosphere) to do something verbally fine with the extremities of desert. What is impressive about these early pages is how easily Kushner also begins to tell stories of the desert.

And, in conclusion:

Her novel is an achievement precisely because it resists either paranoid connectedness or knowing universalism. On the contrary, it succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive.

Hard to resist. I decided to begin.

I’m now a fifth of the way through. I haven’t fully succumbed yet. There’s too much else I have to do this week. And, the novel is almost too scintillatingly alive, the prose too glimmering. Small doses seems about right.

I’ll say more when I’m done.

Categories: Books

The Language of Terrorism

May 13, 2013 Leave a comment

tomtomorrowterrorguns

[Tom Tomorrow, May 6, 2013]

Among the many victims of our War on Terror, now in its second decade, is the word “terror” itself. Terror has come to refer to what Muslims do to non-Muslims, or to Christians, or to Americans. With bombs. A white supremacist kills six Sikhs in Wisconsin with a gun? He’s crazy. An anti-abortion fanatic kills a doctor while the doctor is attending church? He’s a man of conscience. But if a Muslim shoots people, or more likely, explodes a bomb, then he’s a terrorist. Bomb + Mulsim = terror; gun + Christian = freedom. I know, I’m simplifying. But it’s how these events get covered, and how too many politicians speak of them.

Which brings me to Hamilton Nolan’s article Terrorism and the Public Imagination today at Gawker. (Hat tip: Glenn Greenwald.) It’s worth checking out. I’ll quote from it below.

In America, all villainy is not created equal.

A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into radical Islam and become violent. A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into street crime and become violent. A crowd of innocent people attending the Boston marathon are maimed by flying shrapnel from homemade bombs. A crowd of innocent people attending a Mother’s Day celebration in New Orleans are maimed by flying bullets. Two public events. Two terrible tragedies. One act of violence becomes a huge news story, transfixing the media’s attention for months and drawing outraged proclamations from politicians and pundits. Another act of violence is dismissed as the normal way of the world and quickly forgotten.

[snipp

Besides countless deaths abroad and a staggering debt at home, the primary legacy of America’s “War on Terror” is our profoundly warped sense of the dangers of the world we live in, and of who our “enemies” are. As a rule, the rare violence committed by Muslims, with some political or religious motivation, is “terrorism,” and deserving of the attention of the public and of our stern-faced leaders. The far more common and destructive acts of violence committed every single day on the streets of America due to poverty and the drug war and lack of education and simple human viciousness are “street violence,” which is treated as some timeless aspect of the human condition. This violence, which kills many more Americans each year than any Muslim terrorist could dream of, is unworthy of our brain space.

[snip]

This modern age of Terror That Matters vs. forgettable violence is not simply a matter of ratings. It is a direct outgrowth of a deliberate post-9/11 political strategy to create a world in which the vague specter of “Terrorism” could fill the role of The Big Bad “Other” that had been empty since the end of the Cold War. That strategy was wildly successful. It helped to cow the nation’s news media enough to pave the way for the war in Iraq. It made patriotism synonymous with suspicion. And it persists today, in our reflexes that cause us to instinctively and unquestioningly expect an act of violence inspired by Muslim zealotry to mean something more than an act of violence inspired by any other cause.

Categories: Language, Politics

Madison Valley Trio

May 12, 2013 Leave a comment

harvestvine

I mentioned in my last post that I haven’t been writing much lately, in part, because of house guests. But we sure had lots of good dinners, home and away. It was great to have Carol in the kitchen, both as Gail’s sous-chef and, one night, the chef herself (producing a superb salmon dinner). Among the meals out, I’ll mention three that were all within a block of each other in the Madison Valley neighborhood, just over a mile from here.

It’s a continuing wonder to me that Madison Valley has so many good restaurants. When I moved to Seattle a few decades ago, the Madison Valley commercial strip along Madison Street was non-existent. There was the New York Deli. And nothing else. Not just no other restaurants. No commercial establishments at all. The deli was an island. I’d drive home from the university through the Arboretum, making a left on Madison to go down to the lake and Madison Park, with Madison Valley immediately to the right. Another half mile up the road on the right were some stores, but I’d never head that way.

And now Madison Valley may have a more interesting collection of restaurants than Madison Park, among which are the three where we ate with Carol (and, in the first case, Tom).

luc

1. Luc. I’ve written about Luc before. It’s the more casual French restaurant that Thierry Rautureau opened a few years ago to complement Rover’s, his high-end restaurant about which I’ve also written many times. We will miss Rover’s. Thierry is closing it soon. But Luc will continue, and perhaps we’ll get there more often. We ate there on Mother’s Day two years ago, but made it back only once since then, until going two weeks ago with Tom and Carol, Jessica and Joel.

We shared a basket of soufflé potato crisps to start, along with harissa aioli as a dip. Then I had the salad Lyonnaise: frisée, mustard, poached egg, lardon, and red wine vinaigrette. My main dish was the trout amandine with potato. There was a trout special that several of the others had. And I had to watch Carol, sitting across from me, eat their amazing sausage dish: house made lamb sausage, roasted root vegetables, and spring salad. That sausage is really good. I had forgotten just how good, but Carol was kind enough to let me try it.

I passed on dessert, but did try a bit of Gail’s madeleines. Oh, and a taste of Carol’s ice cream. We need to eat there more often. One thing, though. The back seating area, by a small seating counter that overlooks the kitchen, is really loud, as I learned three Januarys ago when I ate a sort of business dinner there. It’s hard to hear one’s table mates. We need to make sure we get seating in front.

cotecreperie

2. La Côte Café. I’ve written about this also many times. I don’t have much to add. Ever since they stopped being a pure crêperie, dropping a lot of dinner crêpes from the menu and adding a variety of alternative French and Italian entrées, I pretty much always order the same thing: the côte salad with butter lettuce, shaved fennel, apple, and vinaigrette; the fettucini carbonara with slab bacon, parmesan, and cream (and a raw egg, not listed); and from their list of dessert crêpes, the Belle-Hélène, withpear, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce. This time I mixed it up, going for the Martiniquaise crêpe for dessert—banana and chocolate sauce. And, of course, a glass of cider from Brittany—I never remember which—that I keep trying to convince myself I enjoy, though it tastes something like burnt rubber.

3. The Harvest Vine. How could we never eat here before? We went a few days ago, our last meal out with Carol. I always thought it was just a wine bar. We’d drive by and people would be squeezed into the small space at the far end of the Madison Valley commercial strip, seeming to fall out of the open windows. What I didn’t know is that there’s restaurant seating below and a Basque menu. Carol knew her way around the menu, having spent plenty of time in Spain with Tom, so she could advise us, as the waiter was more than eager to do.

We shared all our dishes, as is the custom, starting with Tabla Ibérica, a selection of dry-cured meats from the pata negra pig. There were four meats, all fantastic, each thin sliced. We had Gazpacho and the Tortilla Española—a warm potato onion omelette with alioli. And Calçots—grilled Catalan green onions with almond romesco. The Cordero en Torrefacto, or grilled lamb in torrefacto with sautéed artichoke and some other stuff. And Venado, or grilled venison with oyster mushroom-leek ragout.

Hmm. I may have forgotten a dish. If so, perhaps Gail or Carol can comment. For dessert, I had the coconut flan (perfect), Gail the olive oil wine cake with roasted muscat grapes and whipped cream, Carol the rice pudding.

Three wonderful meals. Thank you, Carol and Tom.

Categories: Restaurants

Slow Days

May 12, 2013 Leave a comment
Ohio State beating Towson today

Ohio State beating Towson today

Quiet days at Ron’s View. Sorry about that. It seems to be the unavoidable consequence of having houseguests for an extended period and starting a kitchen remodel at the same time. Tom and Carol were in from Edinburgh, Tom for 8 days and Carol for 16. And Joel made it to Seattle for a few days in the middle.

Carol, the last to leave, returned to Edinburgh Thursday, which should have freed up some time. But as I explained the other night in my NCAA men’s lacrosse preview, I had eight lacrosse games to watch yesterday and today. Plus the men’s golf Player’s Championship, which Tiger won in dramatic fashion late this afternoon.

Oh, and today’s Mother’s Day. Dinner out. A visit to Gail’s mother.

Not conducive to writing much. I’ll see what I can do about catching up in the next few days.

Categories: Writing

Lacrosse Preview

May 9, 2013 Leave a comment
Ohio State vs. Denver, ECAC conference championship game

Ohio State vs. Denver, ECAC conference championship game

It’s May, and that means it’s time for a series of Ron’s View reports on the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament. The opening round will be played this weekend, with four games Saturday and four games Sunday. Each day, ESPN2 will broadcast one game and ESPNU the other three. Last year, this arrangement (and the addition of ESPNU to our cable package) made it possible for me to watch parts of all eight games. I don’t expect to be so lucky this weekend, if for no other reason because Sunday is Mother’s Day and Gail hasn’t chosen to celebrate by watching four lacrosse games.

Each year, when I turn to lacrosse, I review some essential background. Here goes.

First, the tournament format. Sixteen teams are invited, with eight of them seeded 1 through 8. Each seeded team gets to play its opening round game at home against one of the unseeded teams. These are the eight games taking place this weekend. The eight winners play their quarterfinal games the following weekend. If all goes to form and the eight seeds win, then they pair up in the traditional way, with #1 playing #8, #2 playing #7, and so on. These games are played on neutral sites. This year, four teams travel to the University of Maryland to play, while the other four go to Indianapolis. The semifinals and final are played the weekend after, which is always arranged to be Memorial Day weekend, with semis on Saturday and final on Memorial Day Monday. In recent years, the final weekend games have rotated between Boston (well, Foxborough), Philadelphia, and Baltimore, at the stadiums of the Patriots, Eagles, and Ravens.

Second, some history. Until the last decade or so, seven teams dominated the tournament, winning every championship among them and almost always supplying the runner-up as well: Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia, North Carolina, Cornell, and Maryland. That the dominant teams are from Atlantic coast states is no surprise. The game has historically been played at the high school level mostly along the Atlantic coast (especially Maryland and Long Island) and in upstate New York, a close match to the locations of these schools. But now the game is going national. Even here in the Seattle area, it has become popular among local high schools. And with westward growth, other schools are becoming powers, ranked and seeded highly. Some of the new powers, such as Duke, are still in the traditional areas of strength. Others, such as Notre Dame and Denver, aren’t.

Of course, there are many other Atlantic coast school that have traditions of excellence, such as Navy, Loyola, and Hofstra, to mention three in the Maryland and Long Island lacrosse hotbeds. Navy was runner-up twice, in 1974 and 2005. Loyola was runner-up in 1990.

Lately things are changing. Duke, most notably, was runner-up in 2005 and 2007 before breaking through to win the championship in 2010. (Yes, Duke’s story is complicated, with the premature end to their season in 2006. The surprise may be not that they broke the seven-school-stranglehold on the championship, but that they didn’t do so sooner.) Notre Dame was runner-up to Duke in 2010, in the only final not to include one of the super seven. And last year, Loyola had its own breakthrough, earning the first seed and beating in-state rival Maryland in the final.

Which brings us to this year, and still more change at the top. I caught parts of two conference championship games last weekend. In the Big East championship Saturday, Syracuse closed out its history as a member of the Big East by beating Villanova. And on Sunday, Yale won its second consecutive Ivy title by beating Princeton, which had won over Cornell in a dramatic overtime semifinal. This was not a good year for Princeton. It needed the win and the Ivy championship to earn an automatic NCAA tournament bid. In basketball bracket language, it was a bubble team, and the loss burst its bubble.

That evening, the NCAA announced the bracket. No Princeton. No Virginia. And no Johns Hopkins! The lacrosse world is changing. In their place, new powers in the making snagged seeds two through four. I mentioned Notre Dame and Denver. Also Ohio State, which edged Denver 11-10 in their conference championship game the day before, scoring the winning goal with 24 seconds left.

Here are the seeds:

1. Syracuse
2. Notre Dame
3. Ohio State
4. Denver
5. North Carolina
6. Maryland
7. Duke
8. Penn State

The other participants are

Yale
Loyola
Cornell
Lehigh
Albany
Towson
Detroit
Bryant

Though they’re not seeded, I’ve listed them in the order I assume the selection committee had in mind, with Yale playing #8 seed Penn State in the opening round, Cornell playing #7 seed Duke, and so on. The last two had records below .500, earning bids only because they were conference champions, thereby squeezing stronger teams out of the tournament.

There you have it. A tournament missing the three teams with the most championships after Syracuse. A tournament reflecting the westward shift of the game’s center of gravity. A tournament with only three of the traditional seven seeded. A new order.

I couldn’t convince Gail to head to Philadelphia for Memorial Day weekend. We’ll have to settle for TV. I’ll be watching as much as I can.

Categories: Sports